(Former Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
Kevin Flanery is the 2021 recipient of the Louisville-based Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners’ Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award. Flanery will be honored at the KTO’s 33rd annual awards gala Saturday, Nov. 13 at the Kentucky Derby Museum, 704 Central Avenue adjacent to Churchill Downs. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m. ET, with dinner at 7. Tickets are available for $125, including dinner and drinks, by contacting Marlene Meyer at 502-458-5820
The award recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to Kentucky racing and sharing the passion exemplified by Jones, who spent 50 years on the Churchill Downs board, including eight as chairman during the iconic track’s resurgence. Warner Jones — the first, and so far only breeder of a Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup winner — was the inaugural award winner in 1988, six years before his death.
“I am so grateful for this acknowledgement, and I’m especially honored to be recognized by horsemen. Having grown up in the area surrounding Churchill Downs Racetrack, I have a deep appreciation for all the men and women who invest their whole lives into racing. I have always strived to put them first as they are the essence of what is best about this industry,” said Flanery. “I’m genuinely a fan of racing and I love horses. I will be forever thankful for being a part of the history of Churchill Downs. Witnessing the joy of winner’s circle triumphs at all levels of the game will always be cherished.”
The Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners is an educational and social organization dedicated to the betterment of racing in the state. Membership is open not only to owners, but anyone interested in the sport, including prospective owners.
“Kevin may have left the helm at Churchill Downs, but he will always be a part of the racing family,” said Loren Hebel-Osborne, KTO President. “We are grateful for Kevin’s leadership for so many years, and Kevin always provided a welcoming bridge between the frontside and backside. As changes were made on a macro level at the track, Kevin made sure that what was good for horses was always the first consideration.”
Because of the COVID-19 health crisis, the KTO was forced to cancel its traditional November awards gala last year. Steve Asmussen, the 2020 recipient, will also be presented his award at this year’s event.
“We want to celebrate, elevate and honor the accomplishments of both men – we’ve got a particularly solid 1 and 1A entry to recognize this year,” added Hebel-Osborne.
Flanery’s 15-year tenure at CDI began in December 2005 as vice president of national public affairs. He was named senior vice president of national public affairs and communications in March 2008 before being named the 13th President of Churchill Downs Racetrack and a Senior Vice President of CDI in July 2009. As President of Churchill Downs Racetrack, Flanery led several significant capital investments that greatly improved the live racing experience including permanent track lighting and the Big Board. He also spearheaded major expansion projects including the Paddock Plaza, The Mansion, the Starting Gate Suites and Rooftop Lounge, the Colonnade, the new Infield Gate and, most recently in 2020, the completion of the equine medical center and Matt Winn’s Steakhouse.
Flanery came to Churchill Downs following several key positions in government and private business, including secretary of the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet, deputy secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and president of Hagan Properties.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen recently broke the North American record for wins by a trainer, passing Dale Baird’s record of 9,445. Asmussen stands at 9,499 wins over his thirty-five-year career.
Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award past winners
1988 Warner L. Jones Jr. — Louisville native spent 50 years on the Churchill Downs board, including eight as chairman during the iconic track’s resurgence, and built his Hermitage Farm in Oldham County into world prominence.
1989 Claude “Shug” McGaughey III – Kentucky native and Hall of Fame trainer of nine Breeders’ Cup winners that include unbeaten champion Personal Ensign.
1990 Arthur B. Hancock, III – a member of one of the preeminent American horse racing families and connected to three winners of the Kentucky Derby as breeder and owner of Gato Del Sol (1982), co-breeder of Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), and co-owner of Sunday Silence (1989).
1991 Woodford C. “Woody” Stephens – Hall of Fame trainer of two Kentucky Derby winners and the winners of five consecutive renewals of the Belmont Stakes.
1992 Pat Day – a four-time winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey who has rode nine winners of Triple Crown races – including 1992 Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee, and is the all-time leading jockey at Churchill Downs.
1993 MacKenzie “MacK” Miller – Kentucky native and Hall of Fame trainer of 72 stakes winners that included 1993 Kentucky Derby and Travers winner Sea Hero.
1994 William T. Young – Philanthropist and founder of Overbrook Farm 1994 Eclipse Award winner as outstanding breeder, and owner/breeder of 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone and 1999 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Cat Thief, a son of his world-renowned sire Storm Cat.
1995 D. Wayne Lukas – Hall of Fame trainer of four winners of the Kentucky Derby and trainer of a record 24 Eclipse Award champions that include three winners of Horse of the Year honors.
1996 Allen R. Paulson – Eclipse Award as outstanding breeder with more than 115 stakes winners that included two-time Horse of the Year Cigar.
1997 James M. “Jim” Bolus – Pre-eminent Kentucky Derby historian and former secretary of the National Turf Writers Association.
1998 Elliott Walden – Three-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs, two-time leader at Keeneland, and trainer of 1998 Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop.
1999 William S. Farish – A former United States Ambassador to Great Britain and former chairman of the board of Churchill Downs, Farish is the founder of Lane’s End Farm and one of the world’s best-known and influential horsemen.
2000 James E. “Ted” Bassett III – Past President and CEO of the Keeneland Association, former president of the Breeders’ Cup and a past chairman of the World Racing Championship Series.
2001 Jennie Rees – Five-time Eclipse Award recipient as turf writer for the Courier-Journal and a past president of the National Turf Writers Association.
2002 Ken McPeek – The native of Lexington trained 2002 Belmont Stakes winner Sarava and was honored with the “Big Sport of Turfdom Award” by the Turf Publicists of America. (In 2020, McPeek won the Preakness Stakes with the filly Swiss Skydiver.)
2003 Dale Romans – The Louisville-born eight-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs and trainer of 2004 turf champion Kitten’s Joy, 2005 Dubai World Cup winner Roses in May and 2011 Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford. Romans overtook his idol Bill Mott as Churchill Downs’ all-time win leader in 2017, since passed by Steve Asmussen in 2020.
2004 Kenneth & Sarah Ramsey – Four-time Eclipse Award champion owners and two-time champion breeders, the Ramseys are the winningest owners in Churchill Downs and Kentucky racing history. They campaigned 2004 turf champion Kitten’s Joy, and 2005 Dubai World Cup winner Roses in May.
2005 John Asher – Vice President of Racing Communications at Churchill Downs and winner of five Eclipse Awards for “Outstanding National Radio Coverage of Thoroughbred Racing” at Louisville’s WHAS-AM and WAVG-AM.
2006 Thomas H. Meeker – President and CEO of Churchill Downs from 1984-2006 who led the historic track and its signature race, the Kentucky Derby, through a period of unparalleled growth.
2007 Carl Nafzger – Hall of Fame trainer of Unbridled, winner of the 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic, and 2007 Kentucky Derby and Travers (GI) winner Street Sense. A onetime professional bull rider, Nafzger also trained champion filly Banshee Breeze and authored the book “Traits of a Winner.”
2008 Brereton C. Jones – Former governor of Kentucky, successful Thoroughbred breeder and owner-breeder of Kentucky Oaks winner Proud Spell, Believe You Can and Lovely Maria. A powerful spokesman for Kentucky’s horse industry, Jones was a founding member and chairman of the Kentucky Equine Education Project (“KEEP”), an organization launched to promote the state’s signature horse industry.
2009 Hal Wiggins – Trainer of record-smashing 2009 Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner and eventual Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. Other stakes winners trained by Wiggins include $1 million earner Chorwon, Leo’s Gypsy Dancer, and Morris Code.
2010 Calvin Borel – Three-time winner rider in the Kentucky Derby and regular jockey aboard 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. A winner of more than 5,000 career races and a member of racing’s Hall of Fame, Borel is the second-leading rider in the history of Churchill Downs and has earned leading rider honors in Kentucky, Arkansas and Louisiana.
2011 Seth Hancock – Partner and manager of century-old Claiborne Farm, one of the world’s most prominent breeding and racing operations. At 23, Hancock negotiated the syndication of Triple Crown winner Secretariat and through four decades of leadership has maintained Claiborne’s spot at the top of Thoroughbred racing and breeding world.
2012 Ron Geary – A longtime racing fan, Geary purchased Henderson, KY’s Ellis Park in 2006 after serving 16 years as president and CEO of ResCare, a human services company named by Forbes as one of America’s 200 best small companies.
2013 Jack Wolf – A principal with his wife Laurie in Starlight Racing, one of racing’s most successful owner partnerships, Jack Wolf is also a leader in issues beyond the racetrack as a founder and board president of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (“TAA”). Under the leadership, Starlight Racing’s stars include two-time champion and Kentucky Oaks winner Ashado, 2012 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby and Grade I winner Harlan’s Holiday as well as being a partner in 2017 Triple Crown winner Justify and 2020 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Authentic.
2014 Dr. A. Gary Lavin – A legend in equine veterinary medicine and a respected leader in the horse industry. A graduate from the veterinary college at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Lavin’s many leadership roles include vice chair of the Grayson Jockey Club Foundation, steward of the Jockey Club and director of the Keeneland Association.
2015 Mike Battaglia — A fixture on the Kentucky racing scene as a track announcer, handicapper, paddock television host and analyst for NBC network. He has made the odds for Kentucky Derby since 1974. Churchill Downs announcer from 1977 through 1996 and at Turfway Park from 1973-2016.
2016 Tom Hammond — NBC’s icon broadcaster who became one of network sports’ most versatile stars but whose first love has remained horse racing. Hammond anchored NBC’s Breeders’ Cup coverage for many years and was a fixture on the Summer and Winter Olympic broadcasts.
2017 Dr. J. David Richardson — Louisville surgeon involved in all aspects of the industry, including as owner and breeder, horseplayer and filling many leadership roles, including as a member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and chairman of the board of trustees for the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association. He also was Warner Jones’ close friend and physician.
2018 Bill Landes — Warner Jones’ long-time chief lieutenant, working for Hermitage for 42 years and for three ownerships, including a quarter-century as general manager. Honored as the 2017 Ted Bates Farm Manager of the Year by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers’ Club. Chair of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund advisory committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and member of Churchill Downs’ horsemen’s racing committee.
2019 Frank Jones Jr. — Lifelong Louisvillian, prominent businessman and entrepreneur has quietly impacted Kentucky racing for more than 50 years as a horse owner, breeder and horseplayer who has volunteered immeasurable time helping the thoroughbred industry through his work on behalf of horsemen and as a regulator.